HC Deb 16 February 1955 vol 537 cc357-8
19. Mr. Speir

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what steps are being taken by the licensing authori- ties in an endeavour to maintain adequate omnibus services in the rural areas.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

There is constant informal consultation between operators and licensing authorities, which frequently results in existing unremunerative country services being preserved and new or experimental services promoted. Licensing authorities also assist, for example, by authorising, where desirable, variations in timing and routing, the combining of services, and the running of buses without conductors.

Mr. Speir

Is it not a fact that, in spite of the efforts of the licensing authorities, bus services are being withdrawn from rural areas all over the country, and will my right hon. Friend see whether other steps cannot be taken to assist the operators to make these services pay?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I agree with my hon. Friend that there is cause for a good deal of concern in this matter, but he will appreciate that I have no powers to compel the operation of services, and that probably the best method of dealing with this matter is along the lines outlined in my original answer.

Mr. Callaghan

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that, in the light of his experience, and the Government's decision of last July that these bus undertakings are commercial undertakings and not public service undertakings, we are bound to have a continual withdrawal of these services until we have a nationalised public service, run for the public convenience?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I do not altogether like the implication of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that a nationalised service must necessarily be unremunerative.

Mr. Renton

Will my right hon. Friend invite the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to this problem in order that he may consider it very deeply?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware of all the relevant considerations.